September 13, 2019
Arctic policy is a chaotic mess and Ottawa doesn’t have a plan to fix it. Plus, freezing new icebergs, hunting muskoxen, and the D-Day secret for building a highway over permafrost.

Photographer Aaron Von Hagen discovered that you can indeed see the Milky Way, while way up north visiting Blachford Lake Lodge. (via Instagram)


Magazines, you may or may not be aware, are produced with tremendous lead times. For instance, our September issue just came back from the printer but in editorial we're trying to brainstorm adventure ideas for the January travel issue. Basically, 2019 is already in our rearview. And hey, that's a good reminder that if you know of anyone adventuring through the North, we want to hear about them! You can send your story tips at any time to

As always, thanks for reading,
Jacob Boon 

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Several years in the making, Canada's Arctic Policy Framework was finally released this week. What’s in the lauded document purported to guide the North for the next decade and unite the territories, Indigenous peoples, and Ottawa to develop infrastructure and quality of life? Not much!

“Ottawa’s new Arctic policy has lofty goals, but few details on how to reach them,”
reports Alex Brockman for CBC. A chaotic mess released with little fanfare just before a federal election says Arctic researcher and pundit Heather Exner-Pirot.

“No glossy document, no core; rather, 
a collection of webpages. A first phase. A handful of partner chapters that ‘do not necessarily reflect the views of either the federal government or of the other partners’ with more to be released in due time.” (CBC)

Meanwhile, in good news, Watson the orphaned moose baby is thriving at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. The rescued moose toddler is making friends and growing—considerably—every day. Blessedly, Watson is still being bottle-fed and CBC’s Jane Sponagle has the video. (CBC)

Here's some fabric art history from Unreserved: first Kyle Muzyka looks at how the blanket toss evolved from traditional binoculars to a high-flying sport. Then, Stephanie Cram examines the complicated history of the Hudson’s Bay blanket. (CBC)

“Imagine being a full-time hunter one day and working in a mine the next,” says Piita Irniq, recounting the story of when Inuit from Naujaat moved to Rankin Inlet in the 1950s to work in the nickel mine. Coincidentally, this week the Nunavut Government announced a new mine training centre will be created in Rankin. (Various)

National Geographic photographer Michelle Valberg has made a career capturing northern wildlife, landscapes, and communities. She’s also co-founded Project North, a not-for-profit that delivers hockey and soccer equipment to 30 communities across the NWT and Inuit Nunangat. Some day, I'm going to tally up all the charitable groups and southern hockey leagues that regularly donate gear to the North. Oh wow, look, here's another that just landed in my Google Alerts. (Canadian Geographic)

Taloyoak’s first sport hunt for muskoxen provided work for eight outfitters. It also put a lot of meat on the tables. More than half of the food harvested from three muskoxen was divided up among locals in the small Nunavut community. The area Hunters and Trappers Organization decided a couple of years ago to offer up muskoxen tags for sports hunts. The huge animals are not only overpopulated, but also deterring caribou migrations to calving grounds. (Nunavut News)

Fireworks at the opening of the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway in 2017. (via GNWT)

Typos on Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway signs were a costly mistake for the GNWT, to the tune of $49,000. Translations were incomplete and, at least initially, ‘Inuvialuktun’ was spelled wrong. All total the 27 new highway signs cost $164,000 and a year-and-a-half to put together. They were printed by Poison Painting in Hay River, a company owned by then-GNWT infrastructure minister Wally Schumann (though Schumann had to give up control of the company while serving in his ministerial role). (CBC)

Wooden “rig mats” of the kind used to provide access for tanks on D-Day could be a solution to the problem of building new roads over rapidly thawing permafrost. So says supply chain management professor Barry Prentice in the Financial Post. Perhaps a better question for Prentice to ask is whether a 700-kilometre, $1-billion road (that’s likely to end up costing over $2 billionis needed at all? (Financial Post)

Ray Sears has unlocked the secret of squash success: recycled seeds, translucent tarps, and singing country tunes to them. The Marsh Lake, Yukon man recently harvested 43 spaghetti squash from his six plants. Well above average for squash batches, reports Gabrielle Plonka. (Whitehorse Star)

Leela Gilday’s new album is an ode to Denendeh and a message of healing, reports Emelie Peacock. North Star Calling arrives after five years of songwriting through “some difficult times” for the celebrated NWT artist. “I had never written a love song for Denendeh and I thought that it was about time.” (Cabin Radio)

And now for Bob McLeod, in his own words. The outgoing NWT premier reflects on his two terms (the first for a Northwest Territories premier of the modern era). McLeod won't say what his next career move will be (other than that he's entering the “decade of Bob”) but is explicit that he won't be running against brother Michael, the incumbent Liberal MP. “He's a better politician than I am anyway.” (CBC)

Should Canada's capital be moved from Ottawa to Nunavut? It's a suggestion from Rollin Stanley, former chief planner for Calgary, in a Globe & Mail thought experiment.

Indonesia recently announced it was moving its capital from the sinking city of Jakarta, and worsening global warming and rising sea levels might make other countries consider similar changes in political venues. Stanley recommends a point just south of Yathkyed Lake—300 kilometres west of Rankin Inlet. Geographically, it’s Canada’s bellybutton.

“Federal infrastructure investment could stimulate the northern economy through infrastructure, internet access, and career opportunities. It would drive winter-living innovation, which seems increasingly necessary. It would offer a balm to the east-west and English-French divides that have long riven us. And by migrating the capital 2,387 kilometres northwest of its current location, it would send a message about our Arctic sovereignty—all while creating a more defensible stronghold if the planet warms so much that the powerful United States begins to creep north toward our rich natural resources.” (
Globe and Mail)
These theoretical iceberg-making submarines could tackle global warming by re-freezing the Arctic. (screenshot via YouTube)


An Indonesian design team has come up with a proactive way to combat climate change: iceberg-making submarines. The theoretical vessels would submerge and store chilly polar waters that would then be desalinated and frozen with turbines of cold air. Like an ice-cube tray, the resulting 2,000-cubic metre “ice baby” would be popped out and released into the ocean. Of course, the subs would have to be carbon-neutral themselves to make the plan effective. Just one example of the increasingly ridiculous plans to combat climate change that don’t involve lowering global emissions. See also: giant umbrellas over the Arctic. (Dezeen)

Iceland, consistently ranked as the world’s most peaceful country, was more than a little rattled by the military jets and armed personnel accompanying a state visit this past week from United States vice-president Mike Pence. Helicopters hovered over the government building where Pence met with Icelandic officials. Snipers perched on rooftops looking for terrorists. The Reykjavik Metropolitan Police even needed to bring in backup from neighbouring towns and villages to meet America’s manpower needs. (Washington Post)

Welcome to the Stalingrad tent camp, where you’ll find the Russians that Moscow fears the most. Hundreds of these “forest guardians” are volunteering their time and living out in the cold wilderness to fight against the construction of a 5,000-hectare landfill in untouched natural wilderness. (High North News)

Bad news for hikers hoping to climb the highest peak in Sweden: it doesn’t exist anymore. Rapidly warming temperatures have reduced the snow-capped southern peak of Sweden’s tallest mountain by 24 metres over the past 50 years. The latest survey found Kebnekaise Mountain’s southern point—once Sweden’s tallest site—is now second-place to the mountain’s northern peak (a far more difficult climb). (Independent)
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